Toronto Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic approved of his team’s response Wednesday night.
Pascal Siakam scored a game-high 26 points, Dennis Schroder had 24 points and 11 assists, and Toronto handily defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 130-111. The Raptors snapped a three-game losing skid that led to Siakam referring to the upcoming schedule as “must-win games” at practice Tuesday.
“It really feels like when you make shots, it’s the right way, and when you’re missing shots, it’s the wrong way,” Rajakovic said. “It’s (so) easy to have that bias, you know, just based on that.
“But 35 assists tonight is definitely something that we are looking for and that we want. I thought that the guys really responded tonight. Commitment on defensive end was really high level, as well. And when we do that, and we get stops, and we get out in transition, makes everything easier for us.
“Real difference for us tonight was actually our defensive rebounding. Keeping them to seven offensive rebounds, and having 20 rebounds more than them, is something that gives you opportunity in games.”
However, Rajakovic was unwilling to call the performance anything near perfect.
“Not even close. Not even close,” he said.
Siakam attributed the team’s energy and discipline on defence as a factor in the win. Bucks superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard were stifled to the tune of 31 combined points and only 13 by halftime.
“I thought we had better energy overall, which for us, I feel like it’s going to be crucial,” Siakam said. “Because of the length and all the things that we have as a team, we just have got to come out with a lot of energy.
“We can’t be flat out there. We got to use that to our advantage most nights.”
Toronto entered the contest coming off a dismal 4-for-29 three-point shooting performance in its loss to Portland on Monday. The Raptors bounced back Wednesday, hitting 15-of-39 from distance.
“No matter what, you have to continue to shoot them and shoot them with confidence,” said forward Scottie Barnes. “That’s what we’re going to continue to preach and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
Barnes added 21 points and 12 rebounds for Toronto (2-3). Jakob Poeltl had 14 points and 11 rebounds, with O.G. Anunoby chipping in 16 points.
The Raptors were missing forward Precious Achiuwa for a second consecutive game with a left groin strain.
Malik Beasley scored a team-high 20 points for Milwaukee (2-2).
“This is good because you get to learn,” said Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin, who was a Raptors assistant from 2018-2023. “Sometimes getting embarrassed is good because it forces you to focus on doing the right things consistently, and this is what this league is about.”
The Raptors used impressive play on both ends to jump out to a 22-8 lead 7:13 into the first quarter, going 4-for-5 from three-point range and 9-for-13 overall.
Barnes highlighted the stretch with a laser of a cross-court bounce pass on a fastbreak to get Anunoby a dunk before hitting a 26-foot stepback three on the ensuing possession. Paced by Siakam’s nine, Toronto led by as many as 17 and held a 31-18 edge after one.
The Raptors pushed their lead to 21 with a 10-2 run in the first 2:58 of the second quarter. Barnes capped it with a layup for two of his five points in the run before the Bucks called timeout.
After a missed fastbreak layup by Jae Crowder, Siakam drove on the other end and made a drop-off pass, while airborne, to Poeltl, whose dunk made it 58-32 with 2:59 left.
Toronto had four players with 10-plus points, led by Barnes’s 16, entering halftime with a 66-44 lead.
The Bucks, however, picked it up in the third quarter, going on an 8-0 run to make it 75-60 with 7:11 left.
But it turned out to be short-lived momentum. Toronto immediately answered with a 6-0 run across a 50-second span, punctuated by consecutive fastbreak dunks by Anunoby off defensive stops.
Milwaukee trimmed the deficit to as little as 13, but a Barnes three with 0.2 seconds left allowed the Raptors to close the frame up 95-79.
The early part of the fourth quarter belonged to Siakam. Despite the Bucks’ best efforts to inch closer, Siakam scored 11 points in the first 3:35, capped by a three to keep Milwaukee behind 110-88.
Toronto never relinquished that momentum en route to the dominant victory.
The Raptors open a four-game road trip on Thursday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Bucks make a one-game stop in Milwaukee to play the New York Knicks on Friday.